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4041 N. Central Ave., Ste. 1200
Phoenix, AZ 85012

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TXTS4 Leaders List

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The Extra Degree

Marlys WeaverStoesz

At 211 degrees, water is hot.

At 212 degrees, it boils.

And with boiling water comes steam.

And steam can power a locomotive.

Raising the temperature of water by one extra degree means the difference between something that is simply very hot and something that generates enough force to power a machine.  That one extra degree.

Thank you for consistently making the extra effort!  Your persistence and commitment can and will have a profound effect on the lives of your students and teachers you serve.

(For more, check out 212° the extra degree by Sam Parker & Mac Anderson.  It’s a great little book to use with your leadership team or as a thank you for your staff who go the extra mile or could use a little inspiration to make an extra effort.)

Shifting Perspective

Marlys WeaverStoesz

For a long time school leaders were conducting classroom walkthroughs armed with a checklist.  We went in looking for, what felt like, a myriad of discrete pieces of evidence that would indicate effective instruction was happening. Is the objective posted?  What student engagement techniques are being utilized? What’s the cognitive level of the questions? Is the classroom environment literacy-rich?  We would leave the classroom with many bits of data but not entirely equipped with the information to determine how the strategies we observed actually contributed to student learning.

In contrast during formative classroom walk-throughs, principals focus on understanding the lesson from the student’s perspective.  Principals ask themselves, “If I were a student in this classroom, what would I be learning?” Conversations with students are critical in a formative classroom walk-through.  Asking students what they are trying to learn today and how will they know when they have learned it is a powerful indicator as to whether or not students know the learning target and understand how to demonstrate that learning.  By paying attention to what students do and say, the observer is more likely to understand how the teaching is impacting the student learning.

Rather than focusing on what the teacher did or did not do, when principals look for and learn about what the students are doing, saying, making and writing teachers begin to develop a trust and appreciation for the classroom walkthroughs.  Feedback that focuses on how the instruction supported the learning process “promotes a cohesive theory of action for effective teaching and meaningful student learning” (Moss & Brookhart, 2015).

Consider:

How would shifting the perspective from what the teacher is teaching to what the student is learning change the conclusions that are drawn regarding the effectiveness of a lesson?

Thinking about the walkthrough protocol currently used in your building, are the educators performing walkthroughs and those being observed able to explain how the items on the walkthrough protocol promote a cohesive theory of action for effective teaching and meaningful student learning?

How is the information collected from classroom walkthroughs used in your school? Who uses the information most frequently and why?

For more great information check out the book “Formative Classroom Walkthroughs: How Principals and Teachers Collaborate to Raise Student Achievement” by Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart.

Press Pause, Time to Analyze

Marlys WeaverStoesz

It is a good time of year to pause, analyze how close your teachers and teams are to meeting the school goals, and determine what short-term adjustments will have the most impact toward the long-term goals.  At this point in the year, most schools have some benchmark data, teacher observation data, and data about the effectiveness of systems and processes.  What patterns are you seeing in the data right now?  

Recognize teachers and teams who are on track to meeting or exceeding their goals.  What can we learn from these teachers and teams?  How might you leverage their strengths to support others?

You have the most influence on your instructional cabinet’s short-term goals. Maximize the power of your instructional cabinet now to impact the teachers and teams who, with support, can make the most impact in meeting the goals. 

Do the members of your cabinet have a shared understanding about the following?

Does each member of the instructional cabinet know the educators and content for which they are responsible?

Does each member of the instructional cabinet have clear direction in terms of how to prioritize their time?  Things always come up and this is a busy group.  Are there certain responsibilities, team meetings, observations, data collection, or support structures that are critical? Does anyone need support prioritizing time?

Does each member of the instructional cabinet know how to access and collect the data they need?  Are they able to support teacher teams in accessing their own data?  If not, how might you support your cabinet in helping teachers be responsible for their data, their analysis, and their adjustments needed to meet their goals?

For teachers and teams that need intensive support, how are you clearly communicating and regularly assessing the cabinet members’ support, monitoring, and feedback?  Do the teachers and teams have input in their next steps?  Are they finding the cabinet members’ support and feedback positively impacts their ability to meet their goals?  

Consider bringing these questions to your next cabinet meeting and clarify responsibilities and short-term support that can impact long-term goals.  If teams need support connecting or revising short-term and long-term goals, check out this protocol from Rubicon.  

Lock in Time with Your Teachers

Marlys WeaverStoesz

In last week’s Text for Leaders we examined the “Six Steps to Effective Feedback” as a means to ensure that teachers are able to incorporate the feedback they receive after classroom walkthroughs.  But, in order to give your teachers the coaching that will increase their effectiveness, we need to find the time for face-to-face, one-on-one feedback.

Structuring your schedule requires that you determine how much time to allocate to the most critical areas of your school leadership.  Observation and feedback are arguably two of the most important activities leaders engage in every day.   Once all of your mandatory meetings are blocked out on your calendar, schedule your time with teachers.  This takes some work because the time is contingent upon your teachers’ availability throughout the day.  Lock in weekly half-hour check-ins with teachers to provide feedback from that week’s classroom walkthroughs.

This frequent and planned contact ensures consistency; the teacher knows that they can expect weekly feedback from their administrator and you’re provided an avenue to monitor your teachers’ progress on an on-going basis.  Imagine how much your teachers could grow given the benefit of weekly feedback sessions based on focused and purposeful walkthroughs!

How will you “lock in” your feedback sessions with teachers?  With whom will you communicate your observation and feedback schedule and how will that help you to protect your time?